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Vote for decriminalization of pot splits delegates at UBCM convention

Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Victoria Wednesday voted in favour of a resolution calling for the decriminalization and taxation of marijuana.

Resolution A5, brought forward to the annual convention by the municipality of Metchosin, calls for UBCM to lobby the appropriate level of government to decriminalize cannabis and research its regulation and taxation.

“For too long our communities have borne the brunt of the harmful consequences of cannabis prohibition, from increased gang violence on our streets to enormous costs of enforcing a thoroughly discredited policy,” said Metchosin Mayor John Rann in a written release.

“This vote result signals that it is time for our senior levels of government to listen to what the public and now our municipal leaders are saying: cannabis prohibition has been a failure.”

The controversial motion split those at the convention; with many delegates expressing concern that legalized marijuana would be more harmful, and others arguing current laws enable organized crime to make massive profits.

The marijuana resolution is one of more than 200 due to be considered by the estimated 1,500 delegates attending this year's convention.

With the passing of the resolution, UBCM joins a growing chorus of high profile British Columbians calling for the end to cannabis prohibition, including eight current B.C. mayors, the Health Officers Council of B.C., four former mayors of Vancouver, and four former B.C. attorneys general.
 
“Today’s vote to support the decriminalization of cannabis and research its regulation and taxation reflects our commitment as municipal leaders to fiscal discipline and community health and safety,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, whose council passed a motion supporting the regulation of cannabis this past April.

“Easy access to cannabis for our youth, grow-ops that fuel organized crime in our communities and the growing costs of enforcing failed marijuana policies are ample reason to re-examine cannabis prohibition.”
 
The vote followed a marijuana decriminalization debate that opened the UBCM convention on Monday.

Among those speaking was Dr. Evan Wood, co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and founder of Stop the Violence BC, a coalition of academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts campaigning to reform cannabis laws to reduce the harms associated with the illegal cannabis trade, including gang violence.
 
“Prohibition has not achieved its stated objectives to reduce the demand for and supply of cannabis. Instead, current laws have resulted in negative social and economic consequences at the municipal and provincial level,” said Dr. Wood.

“I commend our municipal representatives for showing leadership in taking steps towards changing a policy that has clearly failed to protect the health and safety of our communities.”
 
Dr. Wood added that the call to research the regulation and taxation of cannabis is a key part of the UBCM resolution.
 
“We believe that deregulation is only the first step in working towards a strictly regulated, taxed market for adult marijuana use,” he said.

“Research to date indicates that a system of strict regulation will best impede the illegal market for marijuana and combat the organized crime gangs that profit from it.”